Waimea dispute heads to court

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 21/01/2013

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The ongoing conflict at Richmond's Waimea Village retirement community is going to the High Court.

After a controversial arbitration process resulted in monthly rental fees being raised from $125 to $182.76 last November, many of the village's residents have refused to pay the increase.

Under the terms of the lease, residents are permitted to remain in arrears for up to 60 days before their lease is forfeit. That grace period runs out on January 29.

Residents committee chairman Jerry Rowland said at a meeting yesterday that a clause in the arbitration award meant residents were not obliged to increase their rent until village owners Michael and Carolyn Wright established a new fund for repairs and replacements.

About 200 people attended the meeting at Waimea Village hall, some travelling from as far as Wellington to be there.

"The payment is expressly conditional on the opening of a new account, which so far, the Wrights have not done," Mr Rowland said.

He said he would not consider the residents to be in arrears until a new fund had been established.

Committee lawyer Warwick Heal said he contacted the Wrights' lawyer, Graeme Downing, to ask about this fund, but after he did not receive a satisfactory reply, Mr Heal applied to the High Court at Nelson last month for a declaratory judgment.

"The worry is that there isn't a fund, or if there is then it's been spent on things other than repairs and replacements, which is what it's for," Mr Heal said.

Mr Wright said yesterday that he established the fund two weeks after the arbitration award was made in November.

He refused to disclose how much money was in the account, and dismissed the claim that no maintenance had been carried out as "ridiculous".

Mr Wright said that the arbitration award did not entitle the residents to withhold payment until the fund was established.

The committee will apply to the High Court to have any existing money transferred into a new fund managed by a board of trustees appointed from the village and village management.

Mr Heal said several hundred thousand dollars had been paid towards repairs and replacement costs under the terms of the lease.

He and three committee members are set to meet with Mr Wright and Mr Downing at Club Waimea on Wednesday.

A preliminary hearing on the declaratory judgment will be held on February 13.

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- The Nelson Mail

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